Adelaide United has just five days to recover from an intense A-League elimination final win against Melbourne City, which was settled with just 90 seconds remaining of extra time.
After 119 gruelling minutes, Ben Halloran finally found a way through City’s defence, latching onto a cutback from Baba Diawara after Ryan Kitto’s through ball was misjudged by City’s marquee defender Ritchie De Laet.
While City was bundled out, Adelaide will prepare for Friday night’s formidable challenge against Tony Popovic’s formidable Perth Glory.
Popovic, sitting in the stands at Coopers Stadium, would not have seen much that worried him.
His team will start as clear favourites, given its record and the benefit of a week off after United and City had slogged it out for 120 minutes.
United’s Craig Goodwin acknowledged after the match that it would be a challenge to regroup and recover before the trip to Perth.
“It is a big effort from the team it took 120 minutes,” he said on Ten.
It was almost start again and go to penalties but I said at half-time we had to take our chances … and it went almost 120 minutes. [but] we did.”
Although Halloran smashed a first-half effort on to the bar, the home side didn’t put another shot on target for 112 minutes.
City wasn’t much better, at least working Paul Izzo, but without a cut-through moment to capitalise on its late dominance.
If the first elimination final, won 3-1 by Melbourne Victory against Wellington Phoenix, was an example of an explosive all-out brawl of a final, this was a war of attrition.
Accusations of diving were more commonplace than shots for the first hour as the teams dug into their safety-first styles.
Both sides scored five in their Round 27 outings, but there were no signs of another goalfest in Adelaide.
City made six changes from its 5-0 belting of Central Coast Mariners, including dropping captain Scott Jamieson to the bench in favour of the more-athletic Harrison Delbridge.
Reds coach Marco Kurz kept faith with the side that beat Brisbane 5-3, but encountered stiffer resistance against Warren Joyce’s possession-oriented side.
The first half could only be described as tepid fare, with the Reds marginally more adventurous.
That changed as the match went on and City’s forwards fashioned chances.
Australian Riley McGree and Shayon Harrison had Izzo at full stretch with curling rockets but couldn’t break through.
City looked the only side likely to win it until Halloran stepped up – his last minute, gut-busting run to finish at the far post preceding his celebration.
Kurz finally got a win against City, but it took all night and two energy-sapping periods of extra time to get there.